Contrary to popular opinion on Crash.net, Ben Spies has predicted that Noriyuki Haga will be the rider to beat in this year's World Superbike Championship.
The American rookie is yet to turn a competitive wheel in the series, but is already being tipped for big things in his maiden season with Yamaha having received comfortably more votes in our poll than any other rider.
Thousands of votes were cast for what we expected to be an exceptionally close poll, but with Spies gaining 34 per cent, compared to Haga's 24 per cent, there was only ever one clear winner.
However, while Spies acknowledges the expectation shown in him, he identifies Ducati's Haga as the rider to beat in 2009.
“You'd have to say Haga [as the rider to beat]. “He's the most seasoned rider, he's on a really good bike and knows the tracks.”
Even so, Spies is refusing discount a number of his competitors, pointing out that this year's title race could be the closest yet.
“That's the beauty of World Superbike. There are so many riders who have the potential to win races and the championship. It's going to take a good clean year and a bit of luck on your side to win this thing.”
With Spies and Haga making up almost 60 per cent of the overall vote, you voted in Shane Byrne as the third rider most likely to challenge for this year's title, with Max Biaggi fourth on the new Aprilia. Jonathan Rea was fifth, with Max Neukirchner sixth.